“The air was fragrant with a thousand trodden aromatic herbs, with fields of lavender, and with the brightest roses blushing in tufts all over the meadows. . . .”
William Cullen Bryant
I gathered a bunch of lavender late one afternoon a couple of weeks ago for my friend Claire. This spring our lavender plants have flowered profusely and their sweet fragrance has been ever present in our garden. I gave them to her when we met without knowing they were her favourite flower. She held the bunch in her hands and deeply breathed in the perfume, her face radiating pleasure. Claire is a beautiful woman, with light-filled eyes, a ready smile and a heart full of compassion and love for her family, her patients (she’s a palliative care nurse), her friends, and her God. She inspires me in so many ways, but particularly because she is truly present in every moment of her day, and joyfully exuberant in all she does. We laugh and cry together, share deeply from our hearts, and my life is richer because she is part of it.
I created these vanilla and lavender biscuits today, taking time to enjoy and linger over every part of the experience; devising the recipe, mixing the dough, rolling and cutting out the heart shapes, baking them, icing and decorating them. They are sweetly fragrant, crisp and delicious, and perfect with tea in the afternoon. Whenever I make them I will think of my friend Claire; in fact, I think at our place they will be called Claire’s biscuits. I hope that you have a friend like Claire in your life, and that you are a friend like her to someone else.
125 g cultured butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup icing sugar
60 g cultured butter
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
dried and fresh lavender flowers, to decorate. (I used lavender from our garden, as it is free of pesticides or other chemicals. If this is not the case for you, just use dried lavender flowers bought from the supermarket, or deli)
Preheat oven to 160 C. Beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until creamy. add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the flour in 2 batches and mix well until you have a soft dough. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to firm up. Roll out the dough between two sheets of baking paper until it is about 5 mm thick. Cut into heart shapes and place on a baking tray lined with silicon paper, with a little room between each biscuit. Gather up leftover dough and lightly re-roll it to use it all up. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until lightly golden. Cool on a rack and when cold, ice and decorate. To make the icing combine the icing sugar, butter and enough lemon juice to make a smooth icing that is not too runny. Ice using a palette knife or piping bag and sprinkle over the lavender flowers to decorate. Will keep in an airtight container for 3 – 5 days.